Orillia curlers are ready to get back on the ice after the pandemic kept Orillia Curling Club members locked out of their Barnfield Point Recreation Centre home for over a year.
“Our members are eager to get back on the ice. We are looking forward to getting everyone back involved after not having any curling at all last year,” said Orillia Curling Club president Don Kinzinger.
Last year, curlers missed many different aspects of the game, including the social aspect, he noted.
“When you take that social interaction away from people they do miss it a lot,” Kinzinger said.
So far, the club has seen lots of interest from community members who would like to re-join the club or start participating for the first time.
“We are giving a push to try and gain new members because we’ve had some loss due to attrition and we are looking to grow the club with new and younger members,” Kinzinger said.
However, registration numbers aren’t quite where they were before the pandemic Kinzinger explains.
“Our numbers are down probably 25 percent. I think COVID is the largest reason,” he said.
“People have found other things to do when they couldn’t curl, schedules change, and people adapt to those new schedules. We have also had loss due to members moving away or passing away," said Kinzinger.
To breathe new life into the club and get it back to where it was before the pandemic in terms of membership, Kinzinger says it might take three years.
“We need to get over the COVID situation completely and the protocols that go along with it. While some of the restrictions are manageable it makes it not as enjoyable as it used to be.”
Donna Arnold, who has been a curler for over 50 years, doesn’t mind the masking and sanitizing protocols if it allows her to be back on the ice with her friends.
“I love the sport for the comraderie and the people. I was a competitive curler during my younger days, and I still keep in contact with those people, it’s just a great sport,” Arnold said.
“Anybody between the age of five to 95 can curl, it’s an inexpensive sport to play, too, because all you need is curling shoes, a broom, and memberships are very inexpensive," she explained.
The 65-year-old says being away from the rink during the pandemic was tough for her mentally and physically.
“It’s a very active sport. You are out there sliding, sweeping, it does keep you moving and in shape which is really important,” she said.
Mireille Robert, who is fairly new to the Orillia Curling Club, says she enjoys the friendly welcoming environment at the Barnfield Point Recreation Centre during curling nights.
“Even though I had no idea what I was doing at first, everyone was really fun to be around and very helpful. I never felt out of place. It was such a warm, inviting, environment and nobody takes themselves too seriously,” Robert said.
Robert says being at the rink this year provides a release from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everything is so limited these days. So, it’s kind of nice being able to socialize, meet some new people and be able to keep active for my physical and mental well-being,” she said.
“If anyone is intimidated to try it, know that it’s not a scary thing. No matter what there will be someone here to help you out, and it’s not as expensive as people might think.”
Curlers from ages seven to 97 participate in leagues for all different abilities and skill levels that run from 9 a.m. till 8:30 p.m. five days a week. On most Friday nights there is a pay-to-play league where anyone can try curling for two hours and learn some of the basics for $20.
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